SKOPJE, Macedonia – The Latest on Macedonia’s referendum on a name change for the country (all times local):
A Macedonian election official says turnout in Macedonia’s name change referendum stood at 16 percent six hours before the polls close.
Macedonians are voting on whether to accept a deal with neighboring Greece under which they will change their country’s name to North Macedonia and Greece will drop its objections to the country joining NATO.
State Electoral Commission head Oliver Rekoski gave the 1 p.m. turnout figure.
The government, which called the referendum, has described it as non-binding, meaning it could take the result as an accurate reflection of public opinion regardless of the turnout.
Opponents of the name deal with Greece, which include President Gjorge Ivanov, have called for a boycott of the vote.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has cast his ballot in his country’s crucial referendum on whether to accept a landmark deal ending a dispute with Greece by changing the country’s name to North Macedonia.
Speaking after voting Sunday in the southeastern town of Strumica, Zaev urged his fellow countrymen to come out in force to vote. He said he was confident of a strong turnout that would prove Macedonians are in favor of joining NATO and eventually the European Union.
Zaev said Macedonians “are deciding the fate of our country. I invite everyone to come out and make this serious decision for the future of our country, for future generations.”
Still, the agreement has faced vocal opposition on both sides of the border and critics have urged people to boycott’s Sunday’s referendum.
Macedonians are deciding on their country’s future, voting whether to accept a landmark deal ending a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece by changing their country’s name to North Macedonia and paving the way to NATO membership.
The June deal would end a dispute dating from the early 1990s when Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Greece had argued that use of the name implied territorial ambitions on its own province of the same name, and blocked the country’s efforts to join NATO.
But the agreement has faced vocal opposition on both sides of the border and critics have urged citizens to boycott’s Sunday’s referendum.
Opponents in Macedonia include the country’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, who has called the deal a “flagrant violation of sovereignty.”
Ivana Bzganovic in Skopje contributed to this report.